An Action Research project by Matt Hodge (Art & Design)
Aim of the project:
The aim of this project is to develop strategies for developing individual creativity on male pupils at KS3.
- Examine where the differences lie between the theoretical art education and actual art education in England.
- Investigate the nature of good practice from the perspective of creativity and compare to good practice under the current framework for high schools.
- Develop a strategy for increasing creativity in schools within the current framework.
In 1999 John Swift and John Steers wrote A Manifesto for Art In Schools. The paper called for a new form of Art education in our schools that promoted difference, plurality and independence of mind. These desires and thoughts have been echoed by others interested in the study of Art education and justification for the inclusion of Art education in National Curriculum, for example Burgess and Addison (2000) and Siegusmund (1998). Many issues raised in the manifesto have already been addressed, specialist teachers appear at primary level and the previous National Curriculum for Art primarily addressed creativity, confidence and cultural awareness (The National Curriculum, 2007). Whilst Art education may have appeared to move towards a freer model, the reality painted by teaching colleagues is different. The limiting assessment criteria, that pupils and teachers have to abide by prevents true creativity and relies upon formulaic progression of activities (Hardy, 2002) and evidenced by the current GCSE assessment criteria. In order to achieve good grades, teachers put pupils through a tried and tested formula with minimal room for individuality.
Initially the project was to focus on boys’ progression but engagement in the project through the originally planned extracurricular clubs after school was minimal. The club was attended by a handful of pupils but they soon dropped off. Opening the club to male and female pupils saw numbers briefly increase however these numbers soon tailed off. The open nature of pupils finding things they were interested in may have been too challenging. Pupils would easily find an image they wanted to turn into a piece of Art but struggled to consider technique and methods. This is where pupils needed much tighter instruction.
To adapt the project to produce viable outcomes I adapted my teaching strategies to focus on assessment rather than instruction at KS3, taking the role of ‘facilitator’ rather than front and centre teacher. Initial direction and themes for projects were given to pupils of both sexes but from this point the majority of instruction came through assessment rather than teacher led direction. This allowed pupils to complete work at a pace they were comfortable with, which in some cases, particularly among female pupils, has driven up quality. They still seek guidance and help but this has become much more of a two way conversation about ways progression is possible rather than what do I do now.
Photographs and commentary
Outcomes from a project based on Harry Potter Death Eaters. Pupils developed individual ideas in response to a field trip, using generic instructions for what is expected to be seen in a design task. Pupils were required to gather their own resources and develop their own ideas drawing on a number of sources. Pupils were given basic instruction in how to construct the mask but once completed had to develop their own methods for adding details.
Pupils independently chose and studied a variety of Artists before being tasked to appropriate techniques to a portrait of a member of staff.
The same generic task assessment sheet was used multiple times to familiarise pupils with the expectations of the assignment. This allowed pupils to best explore their techniques and methods as they knew the framework they would be assessed against in detail. The process allowed pupils to manage their own time and expectations of progress between tasks.
Picture 8, 9, 10
Resources and initial design ideas produced by pupils to inspire their Harry Potter Death Eater masks.
Clear and explicit outcomes requirements allowed the pupil to find a personal hook to maintain their interest. The pupil was able to succeed as they could pick their own topic / theme within the intended outcome.
- Develop a foundation based curriculum to build initial directed skills in early KS3 covering basic needed skills and techniques.
- Develop further independence, confidence and resilience in self-directed study.
- Offer pupils a range of starting points for projects (artist or subject based) to allow them to develop their own course of study, fitting assessment criteria into the tasks, not the task into the assessment criteria.
Burgess, L. and Addison, N. (2004, 2nd ed.) Contemporary Art in Schools: Why Bother? in R. Hickman, (Ed.) Art Education 11-18 – Meaning, Purpose and Direction. London: Continuum.
Hardy, T. (2002) AS Level Art: Farewell to the ‘Wow’ Factor? Journal of Art and Design Education. Vol.21 No.2
QCA (2007) The National Curriculum. London: QCA
Siegesmund, R. (1998) Why Do We Teach Art Today? Conceptions of Art Education and Their Justification. Studies in Art Education. Vol.39 No.3.
Swift, J and Steers, J (1999) A Manifesto for Art in Schools. Journal of Art and Design Education. Vol.18 No.1